The Freshmen Fifteen For Real Estate Rookies
(1) Set specific and measurable goals for your business—of course you’ve heard it all before, but trust me, setting goals - no matter how big or small - will mean the difference between closing deals and growing or going back to corporate or, even worse, to the couch. That bum a** couch (or Sofa, depending on what side of town you're from) with the burn holes and foul odor that Febreeze can’t help.
(2) Draft a business plan—there are many resources for business plans out there. I recommend you log onto the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website and take advantage of all of the resources provided, most of which are free. Or you can support fellow business owners like Stephanie Davis over at Pretty Paper Chasers where she has a myriad of offerings that can help you with business plans etc. Make it a habit to refer back to your business plan often. As your business grows, so should your goals for your business. Once you get into the habit of writing down your goals with an actual pen and pad, or on a napkin or whatever, you’ll see things will begin to fall into place. Make it a habit to write your goals as often as they come to you.
(3) Budget for advertising and create a marketing plan— revise as you begin to make more money. You have to spend money to make money. While Craigslist used to be the end-all-be-all, there are many other avenues to advertise your listings, so do your research.
(4) Keep track of all expenses— take a picture of your receipts and file them electronically. Or once every two weeks, take the time to record your expenses using an Excel worksheet. It will make a difference come tax time. Open several different bank accounts for your business. You’ll need operating, savings and expense accounts to begin with.
(5) Take advantage of any and all industry training offered—TitleVest is one huge resource that offers CE courses for free during the year. Whichever real estate board you associate with, whether it’s REBNY, LIBOR, BNYMLS, etc., they offer classes as well. Take full advantage of the resources because you are going to have to pay membership dues within these organizations.
(6) Carry your pocket card at all times and hand out your business cards every chance you get— make friends, spark conversation and introduce yourself as a real estate agent. Now be tactful and don’t be that guy whose business card will end up in the round file (garbage pail) listen for cues and keep it simple.
(7) Make an announcement— contact all of your friends and family, also known as your Sphere Of Influence (SOI). Let them know you’re in the business. Come up with an incentive or some kind of promotion or service you could offer them as a way to make your introduction memorable. Find a reason to throw a wine and cheese shindig or a cigar night. You never know the kinds of referrals that can come from socializing and getting people drunk. Just kidding (not really). The point is to get out of your comfort zone and NETWORK!
(8) Find a mentor and/or someone to shadow— every office has a top producer. If they’re not an absolute creep, know-it-all or the Craigslist killer, ask if it would be okay for you to shadow them on appointments. And listen, we’re all adults here. Use your discretion and take what’s useful from each experience and implement it. Don’t pick up any bad habits that will make it difficult for you to look at yourself in the mirror. You’ll live to regret it. A great resource to find a mentor is The Real Deal magazine or their website. I log on at least once a day to see what’s going on in the industry.
Freshmen 15 Poll
What is the average age of Real Estate Salespeople?
(9) Don’t spread yourself too thin— find an area you love and become the expert. Learn the market and keep up with trends. The mistake I made when I first began was trying to work everywhere. One day it was the Financial District. Then I would find myself in Brooklyn, then LIC and then Chelsea. I figured out early on it did more harm than good to try to work the entire city. My advice is to find a spot and work it. That’s not to say if the deal of a lifetime presents itself in Harlem and you’re the SOHO guru, you shouldn’t take it. Use your judgment. You don’t have to take every appointment. You will find some seriously creepy customers out there and you should follow your instincts above all else.
(10) Offer to do an Open House— if nothing else, they are a great way to find interested buyers. I’ve learned that the most serious buyers come to open houses and, in fact, I found my very first buyers on the snowiest day of the year and closed on the house in five weeks. Now, it was a long five weeks, but the experience was priceless. Keep in mind when doing an open house, you are usually solo. The business often puts us alone in an empty property with strangers. My advice is to find someone such as an assistant or a fellow rookie to work with you. Incorporate a buddy system. If it’s at all possible make it a requirement to meet the customer at your office where they can register, show a picture ID and then take them to the property. We as real estate professionals have to learn how to work together and to work smarter. No sale is worth your life.
(11) Do something every single day that will serve to further your career— make phone calls, send an email to your contacts, attend marketing events, serve on the board of a local charity, and contact the local chamber of commerce to see how you can become a member and volunteer your services if possible. Volunteer to host an ice cream social. Ice cream, cupcakes and champagne will bring almost anyone out. Be creative and memorable.
(12) Put together a newsletter— even if it’s just the latest available listings, a just listed or sold announcement, trends in the industry, your contact info and a blurb about the new Starbucks that’s opening down the street. There’s always a Starbucks opening down some street, especially in New York City. In the beginning you may be short on content, but it’s a great way to leave a paper trail. Believe me when I say someone looking for a real estate professional will respond.
Freshmen 15 Marketing Strategies
(13) Invest in a professional photographer— in case you were wondering, a flattering selfie is not considered a professional photo. There are resources out there such as CEO Portrait that offer different packages for high quality professional photos.
(14) Invest in a completely self-serving website with your branding and voice— I’ve been using Placester which is very affordable and user friendly. Set up a blog and be sure to use social media to your advantage. Create a separate Twitter, Facebook, About Me, Active Rain, Klout, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram for your business and seek to become a resource for your particular audience.
(15) Always follow up when you have any point of contact— Following up can either lead to booking an appointment or receiving a definitive answer on whether a lead can or will use your services. Either way, you should always follow up. Also, buyers are liars. They will say they have a certain budget, however, what they really mean is they would like to spend X amount of dollars, but really have about 20 to 30 percent more than that number and, if the property is right, will be more than happy to spend that money with you.